California’s Minor in Possession of Alcohol Law

California’s law penalizing minors in possession of alcohol aims to discourage those under 21 from illegally consuming alcoholic beverages. Minors can be charged with this offense if they consume alcoholic beverages, purchase alcoholic beverages, or possess alcohol, including carrying an unopened container containing an alcoholic beverage. California’s minor in possession laws are governed by Business and Professions Code Section 25662.

Penalties for Violating the Minor in Possession Law

If any person under the age of 21 is caught drinking or possessing alcohol, the following penalties will result:

  • First Offense: A fine of $250 and 24 to 32 hours of community service. The community service must be completed after school or employment hours. A judge may order community service to be completed at an alcohol or drug treatment program if available.
  • Second Offense: A fine up to $500, and 36 to 48 hours of community service, which must be completed outside of school or employment hours.

Although minor in possession is a misdemeanor offense, it is possible that a conviction can result in driver’s license suspension. According to Vehicle Code 13202.5, if a minor violates California’s minor in possession law, it may result in a one-year suspension of the minor’s driver’s license or a one-year delay of the minor’s ability to obtain a driver’s license if he or she is too young to have a driver’s license at the time of conviction. For each subsequent offense, the law states that an additional one-year license suspension will be added.

Legal Defenses to Violation of the Minor in Possession Law

An experienced criminal defense attorney can present a number of defenses on your behalf in order to fight the charges against you or lessen the penalty of violating the minor in possession law. Some of the most commonly used defenses include:

  • You did not actually possess the alcohol. In order to be found guilty, you must personally possess alcohol illegally. If you are in the presence of another minor in possession of an alcoholic beverage, that is not enough for conviction.
  • The contraband alcohol was discovered as a result of an illegal search and seizure. If your attorney can prove that the police illegally obtained the evidence that you were in possession of alcohol (i.e. a search without a warrant), you may either escape criminal liability entirely or your penalty may be lessened.
  • You called 911 to report that you or someone else needed emergency medical attention as a result of the alcohol consumption. As long as you cooperated with authorities at the scene, you may be absolved of criminal liability.
  • You were in fact in possession of alcohol, but for a limited approved purpose. Approved purposes include delivering alcohol in the scope of employment. This will be a complete defense, and you cannot be convicted of illegally possessing alcohol.

Contact the Leslie Legal Group

If you or your child is charged with minor in possession of alcohol, it is important to consult an attorney. A conviction can stay on their record, which may affect future education, licensing, and employment opportunities. The experienced attorneys at the Leslie Legal Group will work to lessen the penalty, and once all requirements are complete, work to obtain an expungement of the misdemeanor to clear your child’s criminal record. Contact us today for a free consultation.